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The Battle of Algiers, a Film Within History


The Battle of Algiers, a Film Within History

Malek Bensmaïl, 2017, 117 min. Screening and discussion with filmmaker Malek Bensmaïl.

With excep­tio­nal archival mate­rials and many inter­views (Alge­ria, France, Italy, United-States) Malek Bensmaïl’s docu­men­tary about Gillo Pontecorvo’s legendary 1965 film, The Battle of Algiers, will give us, sixty years after, a strong look back at this film half­way between history and legend.

In 1965, three years after Alge­ria gained its inde­pen­dence, Italian film-maker Gillo Ponte­corvo began to shoot a film recons­ti­tu­ting the events of the Battle of Algiers (1956/1957). The black and white news­reel-style film caused a sensa­tion. Effec­ti­vely banned in France until 1971, the film took on mythi­cal status in Alge­ria, where it was scree­ned each year on tele­vi­sion to comme­mo­rate the coun­try’s inde­pen­dence. It was copro­du­ced by the company of Saadi Yacef, one of the heroes of the struggle for libe­ra­tion, who plays himself in Ponte­cor­vo’s film. The shoo­ting of the film was used as a ruse to allow the tanks of Boume­die­ne’s army to enter the city more discreetly during the coup that over­threw President Ben Bella. In 2003, during the mili­tary opera­tions in Iraq, the film was shown to U.S. offi­cers as an example of a success­ful struggle against urban terro­rism.

Event co-sponsored by the Maison Francaise, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and Middle East Institute, Film and Media Studies, and the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life.

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